Tag Archives: rhode island

Rhode Island bill would allow towns to reinstate breed discriminatory laws

Officials in Pawtucket, Rhode Island are once again trying to make it so they are allowed to retain their breed ban.

The ban was nullified by the recently passed state law prohibiting breed discriminatory laws.  When the state law was passed, officials claimed the law did not nullify existing ordinances.  Pawtucket was then sued by the Defenders of Animals and Albert Alix.  A judge found that Pawtucket did not have the right to retain the ban and the state law supersedes all existing breed discriminatory laws.  Pawtucket officials had time to appeal this decision.  They did not appeal.

Instead, they are attempting to get their breed ban back legislatively.

A bill, H 5800, would amend the state’s animal control law that prohibits breed discriminatory laws.  The amendment would allow cities that had such a law before July 15, 2013, to keep them intact.

6 (b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, any rule, regulation 7 or ordinance specific to any breed of dog or cat enacted in any city or town prior to July 15, 2013, 8 shall remain in full force and effect until repealed by the appropriate officials of the city or town.

This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Municipal Government and has not yet been scheduled for a hearing date.

Pawtucket had their chance when the bill was being heard and again, during the court case.  The courts have ruled and this bill is a last-ditch attempt at being able to defy the order the judge.

This would not only affect Pawtucket, but would also allow any other town to re-instate their breed discriminatory law.

RHODE ISLAND RESIDENTS:

Reach out to the committee and respectfully ask that they do not support this bill.

The Defenders of Animals are collecting a legal paper petition in opposition to this bill.  Defenders of Animals will be at the Pet Supplies Plus at 171 Sockanosset Cross Rd Cranston, RI 02920 on Sunday March 8, 2015, between 12 Noon and 4 PM collecting signatures.  People in the area who can attend to sign should do so.

It is imperative that you reach out now, so this bill does not move forward.

The committee contact information is as follows:

 Representative Mia A. Ackerman: rep-ackerman@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Gregg Amore: rep-amore@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Jean-Phillipe Barros: rep-barros@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative David A. Bennett: rep-bennett@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Gregory J. Costantino: rep-costantino@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative David A. Coughlin, Jr.: rep-coughlin@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Robert E. Craven, Sr.: rep-craven@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Blake A. Filippi: rep-filippi@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Kathleen A. Fogarty: rep-fogarty@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Joy Hearn: rep-hearn@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Raymond H. Johnston, Jr.: rep-johnston@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Charlene Lima: rep-lima@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Shelby Maldonado: rep-maldonado@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Kenneth A. Marshall:  rep-marshall@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Justin Price:  rep-price@rilin.state.ri.us

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Pawtucket Rhode Island loses battle to keep ban

When Rhode Island legislators passed a law that prohibits municipalities from enacting any breed discriminatory laws, Pawtucket officials balked.  They claimed that the law only addressed future laws, and did not apply to them because Pawtucket’s breed ban was in effect before the passage of the state law.  As a result, they continued to enforce the ban after the state law had been passed.

A man by the name of Albert Alix stepped up to take on Pawtucket’s ban.   Alix was cited under the ban after his dog, Chubs, escaped his yard.  There was no bite incident.

In late 2013, a case was filed in court, challenging Pawtucket’s ban, with The Defenders of Animals and Alix as co-plaintiffs.  The city maintained the position that they were allowed to keep their ban because the state law wasn’t expressly retroactive, while Alix’s attorney, Mark Morse, stated that the ban was invalid because of the state law.

A Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of Alix.  The judge found that the state law does supersede Pawtucket’s ban.  This means that, at this time, Pawtucket is no longer allowed to enforce their ban.  This also means that there is a precedent set against any other municipality that would attempt to continue enforcement of a breed discriminatory law.  If this ruling stands, it clarifies the state law so that it is clear that no breed discriminatory laws are allowed, regardless of when they were enacted.

It is interesting to note that Pawtucket attempted to have a grandfather clause included in the prohibition on breed discriminatory laws during the Senate committee hearings, but the grandfather clause was rejected.  This speaks to the intent of the law and legislators.  Had they intended to allow existing ordinances to be maintained, they would have expressly included the grandfather clause.  This was not the only way Pawtucket officials attempted to keep their ban.  They also tried an e-mail campaign to defeat the state law prohibiting BDL while the bill was moving through the legislative process.  That was unsuccessful as well.  The contention at the time was that reversal of the ban would make their community un-safe.

The city does have the option to appeal the decision.  At this time, the cities attorneys are waiting to see the written order, and a transcript of the proceedings before deciding whether or not to appeal.  Pawtucket was the only city to try and keep their breed discriminatory law, with active enforcement, after the state prohibition was passed.

Lawsuit filed to challenge the legality of Pawtucket RI’s breed ban

Earlier this year legislation was passed in Rhode Island that prohibits any municipality from enacting a breed discriminatory law.

Pawtucket is one of the places in Rhode Island with a breed discriminatory law.  A ban on pit bulls and dogs resembling pit bulls, was enacted in 1994.   As is typical with places that have long-standing breed bans with entrenched officials, Pawtucket has been lauding the success of their ban for sometime.  However, a simple google search brings plenty of results of dog related issues.  Even officials assertion that bites by targeted dogs have been reduced is questionable considering that with a ban there should be no attacks by targeted dogs and many people have dogs that are labeled as other mixes instead of being put under the legislative catch-all “pit bull.”

Any attacks go to the fact that there are those in the community who do not operate control over their dogs, and those that do.  The ones who do not, get attention.  The ones who do, slide under the radar living peacefully with their targeted dogs.

As soon as the bill began making the rounds, officials from Pawtucket went on the offensive.

During the passage of this legislation officials from Pawtucket tried to derail the process in several ways.  They tried, unsuccessfully, to have the bill voted down.  They tried, unsuccessfully, to amend the bill to include a grandfather clause that would allow municipalities with existing laws to keep them and, finally, they tried a plea to the Governor to not sign the bill into law, which was also unsuccessful.

The legislation passed comfortably and the Governor then signed it.

The failed attempt to include a grandfather clause is particularly interesting.  Pawtucket is now arguing that the legislation does not affect places with breed discriminatory laws already in place.  If it was the intent of the law makers to allow places to keep existing breed discriminatory laws, the grandfather clause amendment would have been accepted.  However, the legislation as worded does not specify if it is retroactive, leaving the issue open to litigation.

One resident is now challenging the assertion that Pawtucket is within their rights to keep their ban.  A suit has been filed on behalf of Albert Alix, who was issued a citation for a violation of the ban after the dog, Chubs, escaped the yard.  There was no bite that occurred.

It is the city’s position that, because the law does not say that it is retroactive, they are allowed to keep their ban.  Officials have admitted that the legislation is not clear and that their ban is open to legal challenge.

Mark Morse, the lawyer representing Alix and Defenders of Animals, a local animal welfare group,  stated in an interview that the suit asks the court to declare the city ordinance invalid because it is inconsistent with the new state law the prohibits breed discrimination.

This case will clarify the law, unless legislators address the issue before then.

Either way, we will be watching the case carefully and updating as needed.